Nickel and Dimed

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P. Shipsey March 22, 2012 Nickel and Dimed Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich provides an interesting, and at times amusing, look at the plight of low wage workers in America. Although it is an unrealistic journey, as the author has the luxury of returning to her “real life”, has no familial structure to aide her, and moves constantly, rather than staying at one job to strive for advancement, the author does manage to highlight the difficult lives of those earning a minimum wage. Ms. Ehrenreich, a conflict theorist, approaches the problem of living on minimum wage. She posits that the problem is that the minimum wage does not provide a living wage, and that the benefactors of the low wage are companies. The author’s glass is half empty as she blames the unequal allocation of resources for the hard lives of herself and her temporary peers. Had she accepted the reality of her situation and acquiesced to having a roommate she may have been more comfortable and felt more supported. Another way of viewing the situation would be with a glass half full, or as a structural functualism theorist. Through this lense, Ms. Ehrenreich may have seen how her co-workers bonded together to help one another, as was the case with Holly. She may have seen the social programs which exist to catch those falling through the cracks, perhaps temporarily on hard times. Conflict theory and structural functionalism are two different paradigms used to view society. Both have their place. Perhaps the view one adopts depends on their agenda and whether they inherently choose to preserve the status quo, or to change it. My own experience as a single mother earning minimum wage was not nearly as frightening or trying as Ms. Ehrenreich’s; I tend to have more of a structural funtionalist’s view; my glass is at least half full at all times. In 1986, at the age of twenty eight, I found

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